Results tagged ‘ 2012 preview ’

2012 Pittsburgh Pirates Preview & Predictions

As many of you know, I am from Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Pirates are my team.  As such, I’ve decided to dedicate an entire blog entry to their 2012 preview, rather than lumping them in with a division preview. In case you missed my division previews, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview,  AL West  and NL Central preview by clicking on the links provided.

I’ve decided to post this preview now, on the eve of the Pirates first grapefruit league game – tomorrow vs Toronto.

The Pirates were in first place in late July last year before everything fell apart.  A blown call by Jerry Meals at the plate in the 19th inning of a game in Atlanta seemed to trigger a monumental collapse, as the Pirates finished the season with a 19-43 record.

The National League Central is a weaker division in 2012, having seen the departures of its two best hitters via free agency; Albert Pujols from the Cardinals to the Angels and Prince Fielder from the Brewers to the Tigers.

Let’s see what the Pirates have heading into the season.

The catching position was a bit of a mess last year for the Pirates.  They used EIGHT different catchers last year.  Michael McKenry received the most at bats, but struggled by and large, hitting .222.  Ryan Doumit, Chris Snyder, Jason Jaramillo, Dusty Brown, Eric Fryer, Matt Pagnozzi, and Wyatt Torregas also saw time at catcher in 2011.

To add stability, general manager Neil Huntington added catcher Rod Barajas during the offseason.

Barajas has been a durable major league catcher throughout his career and brings power to the table.  His troublesome spot is hit batting average and on base percentage.  On the whole, this is an upgrade over what the Pirates had last year.

The backup catcher job will probably go to Michael McKenry,

although Jake Fox was also signed during the offseason to be a viable option if McKenry falters or is injured.

Fox has seen time in the majors before, playing most recently with the Orioles last year.  He is a career .237 hitter in the big leagues with 20 home runs in 489 at bats.  He’s got some power.  He has also had years in the minor leagues where he’s hit 21, 24, 25, and 31 home runs.  He’s got more pop, so I personally hope that he makes the team over McKenry, just from a batting practice perspective.  I’ve seen the guy hit in BP in Baltimore.  He does very well in BP.  He can also play first base.

Last year at first base, the Pirates had Derrek Lee for the last two months, who took over for an inept Lyle Overbay, who was ultimately released.  Lee broke his wrist and missed time, but did have a good month with the Pirates, hitting .337 with 7 homers in 101 at bats.  The Pirates wanted him back, but Lee snubbed the city of Pittsburgh and turned down the Pirates arbitration offer, hoping to play for a ‘better’ team or get more money.  He’s still currently unemployed, which should please many Pirates fans.

So without Lee, the Pirates are turning to plan B.  At first base this year, there will be a platoon situation with Garrett Jones and Casey McGehee.

Garrett Jones does very well against right handed pitching, but looks foolish against lefties, hitting just .147 against them in 2011.

When looking at the splits, McGehee, acquired by the Pirates for Jose Veras over the winter hit just .169 against lefties in 2011.  That defies convential wisdom, since he is a right handed batter.  In his career, he is a .261 hitter vs lefies, so hopefully ’11 was an aberration.

Both Jones and McGehee are coming off of down years.  McGehee hit .223 with 13 home runs last season.  In 2009 he hit .301 with 16 homers, and .285 with 23 homers and 104 RBIs in 2010.  He has reported to camp much lighter than last season, which could result in better athleticism and a better season.

Jones burst onto the scene in 2009 with 21 homers in 314 at bats and followed it up with another 21 homer season in 592 at bats in 2010.  Last year he lost his way a bit, hitting 16 in 423 at bats.  Hit batting average was also a career low .243.

My thoughts about this platoon?  I think it’s a slight upgrade over last year.  Overbay was just terrible for the first three months of the season.  If the Jones/McGehee tandem can hit .260/30/100 while they play the 1B position collectively – it’ll be huge.

Neil Walker had a breakout year for the Pirates in 2011.  He was one of the Pirates more consistent performers.

Third base was a major problem area for the Buccos last year.  Pedro Alvarez, the Pirates #1 draft pick, and #2 overall was a complete bust.  He looked completely lost at the plate and his season was a disaster.  He was hurt with a strained quad, and then was demoted to the minors.  The Pirates once envisioned Alvarez as a guy that could hit 30-40 homers by taking advantage of the short porch in right field at PNC Park.  Alvarez certainly has the power – I’ve seen him launch bomb after bomb over the right field wall in batting practice, but has had problems mentally and with conditioning.

Last season the Pirates relied on Josh Harrison to fill the void at third while Alvarez was out.  Harrison was a good replacement, but he is just that – a replacement level player.

During the offseason, the Pirates let Ronny Cedeno walk, disappointed that the shortstop never reached his full potential.  Cedeno was often distracted and not always focused on the game.  As a result, he often had lapses on both sides of the ball and often times found himself in the manager’s doghouse.

Huntington signed Clint Barmes to take Cedeno’s spot as the starting shortstop.  Barmes is a sound defender and an okay hitter.  He hit .244 last year with 12 homers – no where near his career high of 23 homers in 2009.  However, 12 actually was his second best home run season.  A lot of fans are expecting a lot of power from Barnes.  I would advise them not to be too optimistic.  If Barnes can give the Pirates .250 with 15 homers, we should all take it.   By the way, Cedeno hit 2 homers with a .249 average last year, so Barmes represents a slight upgrade.

In the outfield, the Pirates are set in left field with Alex Presley in left, Andrew McCutchen in center, and Jose Tabata in right.  The fourth outfielder position will go to Nate McLouth.  Last year, the Pirates had Ryan Ludwick/Jose Tabata/Alex Presley in left for most of the season, and a failed Garrett Jones/Matt Diaz platoon in right field.

Presley will bring top of the order speed to the Pirates.  He hit .298 last year and missed time with a thumb injury.

McCutchen is the face of the franchise.  Last year he hit just .259 with 23 homers – perhaps pressing a bit to jump start the anemic offense.  McCutchen has a new stance in 2011 – an open one – and hopes that it will help him stay on the ball better.

Jose Tabata was signed to a six year contract during the 2011 season despite playing just a year in the big leagues.  Many fans question his age – he is listed as 23 – and power – career high in the big leagues is 4 (in the minors his best HR year was 8).

Nate McLouth will receive plenty of at bats as the team’s fourth outfielder.  He was an All Star for the Pirates in 2008 before being traded away for Charlie Morton, Gorkys Hernandez, and Jeff Locke (all of whom are still with the Pirates.)  McLouth was awful in Atlanta.  He hit .198 and .228 there with virtually no power.  Even seeing him in batting practice was painful.  It was like watching a high schooler hit.

The Pirates most important part of their team in regards to their success will be their starting pitching.  Last season, the Pirates were in first place or in contention for much of the first half because their starting pitching was over achieving.  The second half, the starting pitching crumbled, as did the Pirates season.

This year, the Pirates brought in AJ Burnett to be the ace.  They are paying him $13 million over 2 seasons.  Fans in Pittsburgh were excited.  It’s been a long time since we had a big name starting pitcher, even if Burnett had struggled a bit the last few seasons.  Burnett’s arrival was going to bump one of the Pirates pitchers from the rotation and create a competition for a rotation spot – likely between Kevin Correia and Jeff Karstens.  However, it never happened, as Burnett bunted a ball off of his face, breaking an oribital bone.

He’s now out for 8-12 weeks, and the Pirates don’t expect him back until June.  Terrible luck.

Without Burnett, the Pirates will look to another new starter in their rotation to help right the ship.  Erik Bedard was brought in via free agency to give the Pirates depth.  Bedard has had some success in his career, but is often injured.  He’s only pitched over 150 innings in his ten year career twice.  Last season he went a combined 5-9 with a 3.62 ERA and 125 K’s in 129 innings for the Mariners and Red Sox.  He brings the strikeout to a rotation that often pitched to contact last year.

James McDonald was acquired two years ago from the Dodgers for Octavio Dotel.  McDonald was 9-9 with a 4.21 ERA last year with 142 K’s for the Pirates last year.  He struggled at the outset of the season, but was one of the Pirates better starters late in the season.  I think he is the most likely to have a breakout season in 2012.

Charlie Morton was a complete surprise in 2011.  He was 2-12 with a 7.57 ERA in 2010.  Last year, he was ace-like.  He went 10-10 with a 3.83 ERA and induced ground ball after ground ball.  He became nicknamed ‘Ground Chuck.’  He LED the National League in home run ratio – allowing just 0.3 homers per nine innings.  Morton had hip surgery in the offseason, and is participating in Spring Training, but is a few days behind the other Pirates pitchers.  It stands to reason that he likely will open the season with the club, but may start out as the team’s fifth starter just as a precaution.

Jeff Karstens was another complete surprise last year.  Karstens bounced back and forth between the bullpen and rotation in 2009 and 2010, posting losing records and ERA’s of 5.42 and 4.92.  When an injury to Ross Ohlendorf gave him a chance last year, Karstens ran with it.  He never stopped.  He was the Pirates ace last season, often among the top 5 in the National League in Earned Run Average.  He finished up the season at 3.38.  It will be very interesting to see what Karstens does to follow up his breakout campaign.

Kevin Correia was an All Star in 2011, but the completely tanked.  He finished with a 4.79 ERA, but tanked it in the second half, becoming injured and posting a 7.23 ERA.  He also could not perform at PNC Park.  His ERA at home was 7.71 with a 2-8 record.  To me, if Burnett would’ve stayed healthy, he was most likely to be demoted from the rotation to a long relief role in the bullpen.  However, Correia gets a chance to prove that he belongs in April and May in 2012.

Brad Lincoln, the Pirates #1 pick in 2006 serves as insurance if a starter gets hurt.  He has a minor league option left and will likely begin the season in the minors.  I know hindsight is 20/20, but guess who was taken after Brad Lincoln in the draft?  Clayton Kershaw, Tim Linecum, Max Scherzer, Ian Kennedy, and Chris Perez.

The bullpen looks pretty set.  Joel Hanrahan will close games.

Evan Meek, returning from an injury in 2011, will likely be the set up man.  Meek’s injury hurt the team last year, as the team struggled to find someone to be successful in the set up role.

Chris Resop could serve as the 7th inning guy if he can be consistent.  Rounding out the bullpen would be Jason Grilli, Daniel McCutchen, and Tony Watson.  Daniel Moskos or Chris Leroux could also be in the mix.

The bullpen was very solid last year for the Bucs.  It looks to be the same in 2012.

So now it’s time for a prediction.

Taking into account the losses and using the stat WAR (wins above replacement):
Paul Maholm, Ronny Cedeno, Derrek Lee, Ryan Ludwick, Jose Veras, Xavier Paul, Matt Diaz and  Ryan Doumit are attributed with 6.6 wins.  Meaning that they were worth 6.7 wins more than a typical replacement player.  Maholm was most valuable with a WAR of 2.6.

The Pirates have 6 new players:
AJ Burnett, Erik Bedard, Rod Barajas, Casey McGehee, Nate McLouth, and Clint Barmes .  Those six are worth 7.1 wins.  Clint Barmes was most valuable at 2.9 WAR in 2011.  McGehee was -1.0.  Burnett was worth 1.1, although he had a down year.

On paper, the Pirates look like they should go 73-89, a one win improvement from 2012.

That’s not what you want to hear though.  That’s not what I want to hear.  So, I’m going to get away from the stats and project that Andrew McCutchen improves over a bit of a junior slump, and that Evan Meek returns to his dominant 2010 self, and that Pedro Alvarez finally breaks out.

My prediction is 81-81, which will bring an end to 19 seasons of losing, and mark the Pirates first winning season since 1992.

2012 Statistical Projections (from baseball yearbook.  Avg-HR-Rbi)
C Rod Barajas .233-21-63
1B Garrett Jones .247-18-66
2B Neil Walker .278-11-68
3B Pedro Alvarez .219-5-32 (Alvarez isn’t even a starter in the BY projections)
3B Casey McGehee .243-16-74
SS Clint Barmes .253-14-5
LF Alex Presley .291-9-43
CF Andrew McCutchen .262-20-77
RF Jose Tabata .278-5-32

SP Jeff Karstens 10-12, 3.77 ERA, 177 IP, 110 K
SP Charlie Morton 9-13, 4.57 ERA, 167 IP, 130 K
SP James McDonald 10-12, 4.14 ERA, 185 IP, 159 K
SP Erik Bedard 6-8, 3.35 ERA, 116 IP, 115 K
SP Kevin Correia 10-10, 5.01 ERA, 147 IP, 92 K
SP AJ Burnett 12-12, 5.19 ERA, 186 IP, 163 K
RP Joel Hanrahan 2.81 ERA, 35 saves, 67 IP, 74 K
RP Evan Meek 2.54 ERA, 3 saves, 64 IP, 55 K

The season basically rests on if Alvarez can finally perform or not.  No pressure Pedro.

What are your thoughts on how the Buccos will finish?  I think they’ll finish 4th.

There’s only 34 days until opening day, and 1 day (TOMORROW) until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies). And, just 2 more days to win this LA Dodgers shirt.

2012 NL East Predictions and Preview

I’ve been posting 2012 MLB Previews for each division throughout the past two weeks.  In case you missed it, you can read my AL East Preview, AL Central Preview, and AL West preview by clicking on the links provided.

It’s time to move onto the National League.  First up, is the NL East.

I’ve also included 2012 Predicted statistics from the 2012 Major League Baseball Yearbook and Fantasy Guide.

1ST Place:  Philadelphia Phillies (My prediction: 95-67)

This Philadelphia Phillies were the top team in 2011, winning 102 games, before losing in the first round of the playoffs.  Over the past five years, the Phillies have only improved during the regular season, winning 89 games in 2007, then 92, 93, 97, and 102.  However, I am predicting that they regress a little bit in 2012, thanks to a strengthened National League Eastern Division.

The Phillies have one of the best rotations in the game, despite losing Roy Oswalt.

Anchored by Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, and Cole Hamels – the Phillies shouldn’t experience and losing streaks longer than three games.

The Phillies also added Jonathan Papelbon in the offseason to close games out.  Papelbon is one of the top relievers in the game, despite his 2011 finale against the Orioles, where he blew the game and the season for the Red Sox.

The Phillies have a decent offense.  Ryan Howard is coming off of an injury, and had a bit of an offseason in 2011, hitting just .253 with 33 home runs.

Chase Utley has been in decline the past three years, each year worst than the last.  To be fair, he has been riddled with injuries over the past two seasons.  He hit just .259 with 11 homers last season.

I’m not thrilled with Placido Polonco as the Phillies third baseman.  Third base is a power position, and Polonco is a contact hitter.  He hit .277 with 5 HR and 50 RBI last year, along with a .335 on base percentage.

However, the Phillies brought in Ty Wigginton to be a super utility type player, and he could unseat Polonco as the regular starter at third.

Phillies fans have to be upbeat about their outfield.  They have John Mayberry in left field, or possibly Laynce Nix… Shane Victorino in centerfield and Hunter Pence in right field.

For me, I’m most intrigued with Jim Thome signing with the Phillies.  Thome hasn’t played the field much in recent years, but I’m hoping that he gets some time at first base, and isn’t just a pinch-hit only type guy like Matt Stairs was the final few years of his career.

Here’s their 2012 statistical projections.
C Carlos Ruiz .289-6-43
1B Ryan Howard .259-29-98
1B Jim Thome .266-14-43
2B Chase Utley .279-20-74
3B Placido Polanco .284-6-52
3B Ty Wigginton .258-10-34
SS Jimmy Rollins .279-19-74
LF John Mayberry .261-24-77
CF Shane Victorino .272-18-67
RF Hunter Pence .302-23-91

SP Roy Halladay 19-8, 2.42 ERA, 234 IP, 212 K
SP Cliff Lee 19-8, 2.89 ERA, 221 IP, 210 K
SP Cole Hamels 14-10, 3.11 ERA, 191 K
SP Vance Worley 12-8, 3.90 ERA, 135 K
SP Joe Blanton 5-4, 4.66 ERA, 100 IP, 81 K
RP Jonathan Papelbon 3.34 ERA, 30 saves, 65 IP, 80 K
RP Antonio Bastadro 3.43 ERA, 3 saves, 60 IP, 74 K

2nd place:  Atlanta Braves (My prediction 87-75)
The Atlanta Braves are going to battle it out with the Marlins and Nationals all season long for a wild card spot.  For me, the Braves starting rotation gives them a slight edge.

Tim Hudson is 36 years old, but figures to be the ace of the staff, after posting a 16-10 record with a 3.22 ERA in 2011.

The Braves also welcome back Jair Jurrjens in 2011, despite trying to trade him and Martin Prado for most of the offseason.  Jurrjens had a 2.96 ERA last season.

Tommy Hanson began spring training a bit banged up after being in an accident, but his concussion like symptoms should be cleared up by opening day.  Hanson struggled at times in 2011, posting a 3.60 ERA.

Brandon Beachy led the Braves last year with 169 strikeouts, and continues the trend of top to bottom rotational depth on the Braves.

For their fifth starter, the Braves will choose either Julio Teheran or Mike Minor.   With a rotation like they have lined up, its hard not to choose them as second in the division, no matter how much I don’t like them.

Offensively, the Braves have some stars with Brian McCann behind the plate (24 HR in ’11)

and Dan Uggla (36 HR) at second.  Uggla couldn’t hit his weight for much of the season before going on an impressive 33 game hitting streak to salvage his season.

The Braves also have some questions marks.  Will Chipper Jones be able to play regularly at a high level?  He’s 40 years old now, and hasn’t been able to stay in the lineup regularly for two years now.

Will Jason Heyward’s reconstructed swing hasten him back to the days of 2010 when he was a star rookie?  Or will he struggle again like he did in 2011? (.227/14/14)

Will Matt Diaz defy all odds and actually hit a home run?

How will Tyler Pastornicky do?  He could be the team’s opening day shortstop.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Brian McCann .263-22-70
1B Freddie Freeman .296-22-83
2B Dan Uggla .253-36-90
3B Chipper Jones .268-18-67
SS Tyler Pastornicky .256-4-29
LF Martin Prado .271-15-67
CF Michael Bourne .290-2-51
RF Jason Heyward .255-19-66

SP Tim Hudson 17-10, 3.05 ERA, 224 IP, 155 K
SP Jair Jurrjens 15-10, 3.57 ERA, 209 IP, 137 K
SP Tommy Hanson 15-8, 3.82 ERA, 177 IP, 171 K
SP Brandon Beachy 11-8, 3.78 ERA, 179 IP, 187 K
SP Julio Teheran 9-6, 4.01 ERA, 126 IP, 70 K
RP Craig Kimbrel 1.81 ERA, 35 saves, 70 IP, 118 K
RP Jonny Venters 2.35 ERA, 3 saves, 84 IP, 88 K

3rd place: Miami Marlins (My prediction 85-77)

The Marlins went on a spending spree this winter as they move into a new stadium this year.  Despite losing out on the Albert Pujols sweepstakes, they did manage to sign impact free agents Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell.  It’s full steam ahead for the Marlins in 2012.

The Marlins offense looks to be quite good.  They’ve got John Buck, who has power, but struggles to hit for average behind the plate.  He only hit .227 last year.

Gaby Sanchez is a solid first baseman offensively – he hit 19 homers last year.  He’s no Albert Pujols, but he’s respectable.  At least he throws a mean clothesline.  Ask Nyjer Morgan.

Omar Infante and Emilio Bonifacio could share time at second base in 2012.  Bonifacio could also spend time in the outfield, displacing Chris Coghlan.

Hanley Ramirez will garner some attention as he moves from shortstop to third base.  Ramirez appeared to be upset with the move at first, which was necessitated when the Marlins traded for Reyes.  However, he seems to be warming up to the idea of playing third, and hopefully his bat warms too, because he was bad last year.  The former All Star only hit .243 with 10 homers.

Jose Reyes was the batting champ last year, and probably the third best free agent behind Pujols and Prince Fielder in 2012.  He brings speed and excitement to the Marlins.

The outfield looks solid at the corners with Mike Stanton on track to have another monster year.  He launched 34 home runs in 2011, and figures to hit even more as he continues to age and progress as a player.  He’s only 22 years old after all.

Logan Morrison, known more for his antics off the field with his zany twitter alter-ego LoMo, hopes to make a name for himself on it as well this year.  He did well in 2011, hitting 23 home runs, but saw his average dip to .247.

In center field, Emilio Bonifacion will play, or possibly Chris Coghlan.  Coghlan was injured much of 2011, hitting only .230.  Some would say it’s karma after this incident involving fellow ballhawker the Happy Youngster.  Coghlan went on to win the rookie of the year, while the Happy Youngster got a bad rep and faded away from the ballhawking scene.  Maybe the Youngster makes a comeback in ’12?

As far as their rotation is concerned, the Marlins look like they’ll be decent, but not great.

Josh Johnson is returning from an injury, but has the talent to be a front line starter.  He had a 1.64 ERA in 9 starts before being injured last season.

Mark Buehrle is a proven veteran that is a solid #2 starter.

Behind those two, the Marlins have Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez.  Nothing spectacular, but acceptable as starters.

Interestingly, the Marlins traded for Carlos Zambrano.  After a rocky career in Chicago, things have been quiet so far on the Zambrano front.

At the back of the bullpen, they’ve got Heath Bell to close things out.  Bell had 43 saves for a poor Padres team in 2011, so he could do even better in 2012.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C John Buck .241-17-66
1B Gaby Sanchez .262-18-76
2B Omar Infante .290-10-59
3B Hanley Ramirez .291-22-91
SS Jose Reyes .318-10-52
LF Logan Morrison .250-24-80
CF Emilio Bonifacio .292-4-31
RF Mike Stanton .265-38-97

SP Josh Johnson 14-6, 2.54 ERA, 226 IP, 216 K
SP Mark Buehrle 13-10, 3.89 ERA, 204 IP, 103 K
SP Ricky Nolasco 13-12, 4.60 ERA, 205 IP, 168 K
SP Anibal Sanchez 9-10, 3.64 ERA, 180 IP, 169 K
SP Carlos Zambrano 11-10, 4.52 ERA, 163 IP, 120 K
RP Heath Bell 2.64 ERA, 41 saves, 65 IP, 65 K
RP Juan Oviedo 4.00 ERA, 4 saves, 63 IP, 59 K

4th place: Washington Nationals (My prediction: 84-78)
The Nationals are an improved team over last year, they added Edwin Jackson and are getting Stephen Strasburg back from an injury that cost him most of 2011.

The Nationals were unlucky and lost out on the Prince Fielder sweepstakes to Detroit and are stuck with Adam LaRoche as their first baseman.  LaRoche should not get Nationals fans excited.  Based on his track record, he will be abysmal until the All Star break and then recover to finish with a slightly above average line.  I’ve seen it in Pittsburgh.  Us Pirates fans were expecting 40 HR and 100 RBI with the short right field fence, but it never came close to happening with LaRoche.  If LaRoche really bombs in his rebound year from injury, the Nats could put Mike Morse at first base and open up a spot in the outfield for Bryce Harper.

Wilson Ramos, acquired from the Nationals for ex-Pirates reliever Matt Capps survived a harrowing ordeal during the offseason when he was kidnapped at gunpoint and held captive.  Thankfully, he was rescued without injury and looks to follow up a 15 HR, .445 slugging season with another decent offensive showing.

The Nationals have a power source at second base in Danny Espinosa.  He slugged 21 homers last year despite hitting just .236.

Ryan Zimmerman just signed a $100 million dollar contract to keep him in a Nationals uniform til 2020.  That’s a serious commitment to what many in the Nationals brass consider the face of the franchise.  Zimmerman was injured for part of 2011, and hit only 12 homers – but if healthy, he’s capable of putting up 25-30 HR on the board while playing excellent defense.  He’ll want to prove to everyone that he’s worth the $100 million.  Although one baseball writer tweeted, “$100 million is an awful lot for a one time all-star.”

In the outfield, the Nationals are set with Michael Morse, Roger Bernadina and Jayson Werth.  Werth was terrible in 2011.  He may have hit 20 homers, but Nationals fans expected more power, and certainly better than a .232 batting average and .389 slugging percentage.  Werth was one of the best players in the league before signing with the Nationals.  His statistics took a nosedive once he joined the team.  He is one of several reasons why the Nationals could be the surprise team in 2012.  Can he return to the Werth that roamed the outfield for the Phillies?

Michael Morse is probably my favorite Nationals player.  If you get the chance to go to a Nationals game, simply stand in left center field and get ready to be bombarded with home run balls.  The guy is a monster.  He reminds me a lot of Mike Stanton in terms of body structure and pure power.  After hitting .303/31/95 in 2011, he could be a candidate to hit 40 homers.

A major question in the Nationals outfield leading into 2012 is if Bryce Harper will be the starting right fielder in 2012.  Manager Davey Johnson said the 19 year old has a chance.  If he makes the team, expect the same level of hype to follow Harper around that Stephen Strasburg had back in 2010.

In terms of the rotation, its much improved after the signing of Edwin Jackson to an 11 million dollar one year contract.  Personally, I don’t think much of Jackson after he spurned the Pirates 3 year $30 million offer to accept less money with the Nationals.  He’s an excellent #2 pitcher though.

The ace of the Nationals is Stephen Strasburg and he may be babied again in 2012 as the Nats seem terrified of him getting injured again.  If Strasburg weren’t on strict pitch counts, his strike out numbers could be ridiculous.  However, he still has amazing stuff and should baffle hitters all season long.  He’s a special player.  I’ll never forget attending his major league debut against the Pirates in Washington DC in June of 2010.

The Nationals’ third starter is Gio Gonzalez, the ex-ace of the Oakland Athletics.  He posted a 16-12 record with a 3.12 ERA in the American League last year.  Reason states that his ERA should drop a little since he doesn’t have to face the DH in the National League anymore.

The Nationals rest of the rotation is average.  At the back end they’ve got Drew Storen to close out games, or possibly new addition Brad Lidge.

2012 Statistical Projections:
C Wilson Ramos .269-16-55
1B Adam LaRoche .243-14-56
2B Danny Espinosa .258-23-72
3B Ryan Zimmerman .296-24-81
SS Ian Desmond .261-8-51
LF Michael Morse .300-30-90
CF Roger Bernadina .238-7-30
RF Jayson Werth .245-20-64

SP Stephen Strasburg 13-6, 2.40 ERA, 139 IP, 151 K
SP Gio Gonzalez 16-11, 3.25 ERA, 211 IP, 208 K
SP Jordan Zimmerman 10-19, 4.33 ERA, 141 IP, 102 K
SP Edwin Jackson 13-9, 3.95 ERA, 203 IP, 156 K
SP John Lannan 12-11, 4.01 ERA, 191 IP, 117 K
SP Chien Ming Wang 9-7, 3.83 ERA, 125 IP, 47
RP Drew Storen 3.01 ERA, 38 saves, 81 IP, 81 K
RP Tyler Clippard 2.34 ERA, 0 saves, 85 IP, 100 K

5th place:  New York Mets (My prediction 62-100)
The Mets are going to be bad in 2012.  They are slashing payroll left and right, and might deal David Wright at the trade deadline this year.

Am I wrong Mets fans?  I think they’ll lose 100 games.  The division is tough, and they are worse than last year.

David Wright is the long bright spot, but there’s really no one to protect him in the order.

Ike Davis has some pop, but will be be consistent throughout the season?

Then there’s Jason Bay, one of the biggest free agent busts since Barry Zito.  After signing a $66 million contract, Bay has done next to nothing.  Maybe moving the fences in at Citi Field will help him some.

Andres Torres, a 4th or 5th outfielder on just about every other team, will be the starting center fielder.

Ruben Tejada is no Jose Reyes at shortstop.  He has no power, but can hit for an acceptable average near .300.

The rotation pales in comparison to the other four teams in the division.  Johan Santana will finally be back after missing an eternity due to injury.  If he’s half the pitcher he used to be, he’ll still be the best pitcher on the Mets.

It’s going to be a long year.  At least watching RA Dickeys facial expressions and knuckleball should be fun.

2012 Statistical Projections:

C Josh Thole .273-4-46
1B Ike Davis .260-20-73
2B Daniel Murphy .318-8-66
3B David Wright .269-20-87
SS Ruben Tejada .288-0-60
LF Jason Bay .252-16-76
CF Andres Torres .237-6-27
RF Lucas Duda .301-13-61

SP Johan Santana 12-7, 2.84 ERA, 162 IP, 142 K
SP Mike Pelfrey 11-11, 4.39 ERA, 193 IP, 106 K
SP Jonathon Niese 10-11, 4.43 ERA, 167 IP, 146 K
SP Dillon Gee 12-10, 4.79 ERA, 179 IP, 134 K
SP RA Dickey 9-12, 3.13 ERA, 201 IP, 125 K
RP Frank Francisco 3.33 ERA, 28 saves, 51 IP, 55 K
RP Jon Rauch 4.05 ERA, 5 saves, 53 IP, 39 K

So, to review,  I have:
1) Phillies
2) Braves
3) Marlins
4) Nationals
5) Mets

I think the Braves, Marlins, and Nationals could be pretty much interchangeable though, as they are all similar in talent level.

What are your thoughts?

Leave a comment!

There’s only 37 days until opening day, and 4 days until the first broadcasted game on MLB TV (Yankees vs Phillies). Also, the first listed Spring Training game on the MLB schedule is tomorrow when the Phillies take on the Seminoles. Also, just five more days to win this LA Dodgers shirt.

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